I was remembering an old writer’s saying today: when in doubt, write what you know. So much of what I’ve been writing lately has been nothing at all about what I know and while I don’t consider myself a real writer, and I’m mostly fine with not taking myself too seriously, I still don’t like sucking at what I do. If I can do better, I should, even if what I’m writing isn’t particularly meaningful or doesn’t inspire me, it doesn’t mean I can’t still do a better job.
So, today I thought perhaps the place to start would be to write about what I know when I’m not writing for someone else…which I went exploring for ideas and found on my way some musical pages and stopped, and I read and I listened, and eventually I remembered…
Some time ago I took myself out of the game… I stopped performing, I stopped practicing, I stopped singing…I even stopped listening. I sidelined myself, for many well-remembered and important reasons, and for quite a while that was ok. I was happy out of the spotlight, out of the social interactions and engagement, out of the constant necessity for attention. I needed to be silent for a while. I wanted to be still and separate, out from under the pressure, the constant, incessant, pressure that was mostly self-imposed. I needed to lick my wounds and figure myself out, who I was if not the girl with the beautiful voice. What and who was I beyond that, who… who was I, without her?
I was almost too afraid to ask that question, so for a long time I sat back and watched and rarely made an outward comment, and the world just passed me by and still, I sat silently, just watching.
Then last spring something started to change, a slight shift, somewhere, and so sudden. And there I was engaging, again, ever so slightly. I started these fledgling attempts at writing, probably mostly out of necessity, or a want to be heard by someone, somewhere again, even if only from the safety of my little laptop in my tiny room, even though I may not have had anything important or even interesting to say. I But, I started again. With words this time, which was, for a while I think, just enough.
So, I went searching for something new and as I read and listened to the music that inspired the beautiful poems and stories I found, two things hit me and cut me to the quick. These two simultaneous thoughts that buckled me, devastated to the floor, and unabated, unending streams of tears poured and shook out of me, robbing all my energy, like a ragdoll splayed out and spent, left on the sidewalk half stuck in landing where someone carelessly tossed her away. These two thoughts hit me, all at once:
I Am a Witness: I am a silent witness of my own life. I removed myself from the world, and in so doing, I removed myself from me…which is the 2nd part of what hit:
I Am Not Me Without the Music: This notion I’d carried for so long that I could somehow divorce myself from music, as though it was this foreign thing, maybe only something borrowed and not a part of who I am, was utter nonsense. There isn’t any separation between artist and art. I am not me without the part that is fully a part of music. My soul sings constantly, whether I like it or not, silently, inwardly, I am always moved from the center and the deep and when I allow myself those moments of exquisite bliss I am home, and simultaneously bereft, and filled with such longing and love and pain like I’ve abandoned my most precious self, like my own child because what I have abandoned is part of myself.
I can’t separate from what is at the core of me. That’s like cutting myself in half and still walking around pretending I haven’t noticed, that I’m still a whole person and not this missing person. Not even half a person, but a nonperson. I may not want this or sometimes work very hard to convince myself I don’t, but why when I stumble back upon myself do I miss it so much?
I’ve decided I don’t want to be the witness anymore. I don’t want to be this silent nonperson who’s been abandoned by herself. I want to hear my own voice again, to reclaim it and connect, to feel and hear and know again what it feels like to be a part of the world, a part of music- at least, if not entirely for anyone else other than myself, and maybe not only that. Maybe it’s time to stop being afraid of what people might think of me and how it makes me feel, and realize there is something worse. Walking around without myself for years is worse. So much worse, and I’m more resilient now than I sometimes like remember.
So, I’m letting it all back in. I’m letting in the music, I’m letting in my whole self and will stop trying to redefine “me” as something other than who I am which is Tisha, the musician, the artist, the singer, the mother, the activist, the sometimes writer, the politically obsessed daughter, the sister, the partner, the friend.
No more bearing witness to my own life, no more abandoning, leaving my soul silent, bereft in some exile, self-imposed. So pointless, gut wrenching and alone and oh, just so lonely and disappointing, where nothing but the abyss and the cliff that tempts and pulls and coaxes, and convinces it doesn’t matter because all is meaningless and pointless anyway, that awful voice inside that replaced my beautiful musical voice, the one that loves, is passionate and feels, that cares and tries, and fails and gets up and tries again. The voice that devastates and hurts and lets everyone down then picks them up again with the sheer forcefulness of her will, my will, and the tyrannical insistence of my heart. A bag of mixed and jumbled flaws, sharp edges, strangely odd disconnects, and a wildness that can scare even me.